Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cipollini Continues With Rock Racing Towards Sanremo

Mario Cipollini is continuing his push towards a repeat Milano-Sanremo win with the USA-based team Rock Racing. 'The Lion King', who came out of retirement to help manage and race for the Continental team, already showed his intentions to be serious when he competed in the recent Tour of California.

The 40 year-old Italian from Lucca recently stated his differences with the team of Michael Ball, but a meeting held after the conclusion of the eight-day tour in USA's Golden State has seemingly smoothed the rocky road, and now Milano-Sanremo is in Cipollini's sights.

"The project is going forward, notwithstanding the 15,000 kilometres and nine hours time difference that divides us from California [Ball's headquarters - ed.]," said the 2002 World Champion to La Gazzetta dello Sport of racing Milano-Sanremo, March 22, the day he will turn 41 years old. "In this moment we are concentrating on racing Sanremo. We are hoping of the possibility to be there. The significance would be personal satisfaction and a great sponsor's first step into Europe, which cycling needs."

Part of the controversy surrounding Team Rock Racing was the signing of riders who had been linked to the OperaciĆ³n Puerto doping investigation; Michael Ball contracted Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero over the winter to reinforce the relatively young team. To respond to the criticism the team has adopted a anti-doping programme, organised by Scott Analytics.

"The construction was already going," continued Cipollini of the programme. "Ball talked to me about it during the week of the race." The programme is run by Paul Scott, who in the past worked for the Agency for Cycling Ethics (ACE) and served as an expert witness for Floyd Landis.

Anti-doping programme in place, the team will still have difficulties entering into events such as the Milano-Sanremo due to its status as a Continental team; such teams are not allowed to race in ProTour events under International Cycling Union (UCI) rules, but since the status of the biggest Italian one-day race has recently changed there might be a chance.

"The invitation is in the hands of the organiser [RCS Sport]," said Cipollini. He is not worried about UCI President Pat McQuaid weighing in on the matter, "He certainly has more important things to occupy himself with."

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